Investment in agriculture; a viable revenue source

Abimbola Akosile writes about the ripple effects of the Commercial Agriculture Development Programme (CADP) project, a tripartite arrangement between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, the World Bank and some selected states, which current cycle ended on May 31, and its impact on beneficiaries, agricultural production and development in Nigeria, with focus on Lagos State

Imagine getting paid handsomely for doing exactly what you love to do. A typical example was the joy Austin JJ Okocha felt and displayed when he was dribbling his way through the football ranks at Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany and Bolton Wanderers in the United Kingdom some years back.

In the Nigerian context, although it was unfashionable for youths to remain in the rural areas and live on subsistent farming practices, the tide is now happily turning in favour of young, agricultural entrepreneurs (agri-preneurs) principally for three reasons.

Firstly, crude oil revenue has reduced considerably and the Federal Government has wisely prioritised agriculture as a viable alternative source of revenue, with huge funds invested in the sector. Secondly, the private sector have now realised the huge potential in agricultural partnerships and investment and their usual efficiency and government backups have combined to turn agriculture into a pull factor.

Thirdly and most importantly, many active youths have discovered that there are no longer as many white-collar jobs as before and they, alongside women, are now embracing modern agriculture and the upstream processing side.

Here, the incentives from government, the private sector and foreign partners are helping the youths to overcome unemployment and meet their financial needs with ripple effects on their families and associated dependants. One of such initiatives is the Commercial Agriculture Development Programme (CADP).

CADP Project

The CADP is a comprehensive five-year project developed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources (FMAWR) in collaboration with the World Bank and five (5) States in Nigeria, namely; Lagos, Cross River, Enugu, Kaduna and Kano.

It was aimed at helping participating small and medium scale commercial farmers to access improved technology, infrastructure, finance and output markets. The project was timely as the interest in commercial agriculture in Nigeria was growing.


Justification & Principles

 The basic strategy of the CADP project was to improve the business environment for agriculture to become more successful by gradually shifting from subsistence to commercial agriculture. The project strived to sustainably boost the incomes of target beneficiaries, through a value chain approach with strong emphasis on stakeholder participation, especially at the CIGs, CADAs and Women and Youth levels.

Value chain approach was used for the implementation of the project. A typical chain will include producers, assemblers/traders, processors, distributors, retailers and finally consumers.

The strategic thrusts of the project were: to support access to productivity- enhancing technologies; to improve market access; to build and improve capacity in areas of need and to improve access to rural infrastructure (i.e. network of roads and electricity).

Devt Objectives

 The Project Development Objective (PDO) of the project was to strengthen agricultural production systems and facilitate access to market for targeted value chains among small and medium scale commercial farmers in the five participating states. The value chains for Lagos State were poultry, aqua-culture and rice as staples.

 

Small and medium commercial farms benefitted over a period of seven years directly while many households benefitted indirectly through access to farm roads, energy and markets opportunities.

 

Access Roads

In Lagos State, according to findings, the project supported the rehabilitation of 16 farm access roads of 34.9 kilometres across the State. About 78.8 per cent of the respondents in a survey carried out by the project indicated that the farm input supply was very timely after the road intervention.

For the three value chains, there was increase in the percentage of those who obtained farm input at farm gate after the road intervention from 45 per cent before to 78.8 per cent.

The project was restructured in the year 2014. This was to further improve on the implementation modalities and procedures for Matching Grant Scheme while the eligibility intervention modalities for processing Commodity Interest Groups (CIGs) business plans, SME investments and women and youth investment plans were highlighted.

 

Women & Youth

The objectives and plans for the CADP women and youth empowerment include: to attract and encourage young men and women to become successful agricultural entrepreneurs; and to support the rice, maize, cocoa, oil palm, fruit trees, poultry, dairy and aquaculture value chains in the five participating States of Cross River, Enugu, Lagos, Kaduna and Kano.

Other objectives included: To provide training for promising agriculture entrepreneurs and fund their viable business proposals. The training was done in two batches in the State; and to provide each youth and women entrepreneurs with a grant that did not exceed N3 million with 100 per cent from the International Development Association (IDA).

Also, according to findings, beneficiaries constituted in a group of 3-5 individuals attracted additional project support, while group registration and peer collaboration /interaction were encouraged to strengthen the project.

Fund disbursement has been done for the 315 WYEP beneficiaries in the State and implementation is in progress across the segments of the three Value Chains of Aquaculture, Poultry and Rice.

Happy Beneficiaries

THISDAY spoke with some of the Lagos beneficiaries of the Project and their happy recollections of the benefits from the CADP was consistent all through their narrations.

To Mr. Olugbenga Aladejebi, a rice marketer who operates a rice processing mill and marketing company (Planrica Agroventures) around Adeniyi Jones area of Ikeja, the CADP intervention has helped him to fulfil his passion for agriculture.

Aladejebi, in his late thirties and an Ekiti indigene who has spent more than 20 years in Lagos, was one of the lucky beneficiaries of the CADP grant and the inputs from his N2.5million grant which he got in April this year have helped him to take his business to another level.

Currently producing one tonne of milled rice per month – which he is planning to double soon -, the agri-preneur who has a wife and three children, intends to move up from milled rice to table process to paddy rice to table.

According to Aladejebi, “the CADP initiative is very commendable which focus is to create employment and encourage participation in agriculture. I must commend the Lagos State government and the World Bank for this”.

However, he urged the stakeholders to empower only those who have the passion for agriculture in a bid to generate the right ripple effect on the populace.

Likewise, 38-year-old Mrs. Folashade Bello was full of praise for Lagos State and the World Bank for empowering her in her agricultural venture. The egg marketer, who currently markets around 100 crates of eggs on a daily basis from her base in Ayobo, was a lucky beneficiary who also obtained a grant of N2.5 million in May this year after training and approval of her business plan.

The mother of five children, who lives with her husband at the shop location, was given incentives of 800 empty crates, eggs, shop, chairs and wheelbarrows to help her egg business under the business name of Ajisade Farms. Her gratitude is understandable, because she was previously unemployed before she got the CADP grant; and now she intends to expand her business further.

 

Project Sustainability

The CADP has closed officially on May 31, 2017. However, the project has set up a six-member Oversight Standing Committee (OSC) chaired by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Olayiwole Onasanya to ensure that the State take full benefit of all approved project activities even after the project closing date.

The Terms of Reference of the committee is to supervise and ensure complete implementation of all initiated but uncompleted sub-projects within the stipulated period of 90 days after project closure.